Fruit of the Spirit: The First Steps to an Enduring Marriage
- 2010 24 Jun
Recently, as a friend and her husband were about to celebrate the wedding of his daughter, she expressed to me how difficult it is to find the right words of advice on making the complex relationship of marriage work. On the surface, there seems to be no "one-size-fits-all" template for success.
Many books have been written about marriage. They discuss his needs and her needs, how to talk to one another, the importance of time spent together and the benefits of spending time apart. They address sex, respect, children, emotional health, and a vast array of other relevant topics.
Yes, much has been said on the subject of marriage, often with great wisdom and insight. After all, men and women have been struggling with infidelity, division of labor, money, family and other issues that directly impact their marriages since the beginning of time.
But if one were able to condense all of this marital advice down to just a simple formula, they would find that there actually is a sort of template. The blueprint for a happy marriage was given to us by the very Creator of marriage itself, and he passed it along to us in his timeless words.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 provides a perfect definition for Love:
"Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him."
This verse is used in countless marriage ceremonies. On that significant day, these ideals seem like lovely sentiments. But after the champagne has fizzled, the guests have departed, the dress has been carefully packed away, and the last of the gifts unwrapped, every couple finds the wedding is over and the marriage has begun. And in the midst of the inevitable conflicts that occur when two people attempt to merge their lives into one, most couples find that while they may appreciate and believe in those beautiful words, trying to practice this kind of love can prove to be quite difficult.
How many times are you supposed to be "patient and kind" when your spouse keeps doing the same thing over and over again that annoys you to no end?
How do you keep from being "irritable" when you have had the worst day ever, and your head is pounding?
And while none of us likes to think of ourselves as "selfish," the fact is, all of us have a selfish streak.
We all have expectations of what we want out of life, out of marriage, and from one another. Look back on your own behavior and ask yourself how you have behaved in the past when things didn't go as you planned or expected. What happens when you don't get your way? And how does your spouse behave under the same circumstances?
Chances are, your past behavior is a good indicator of your future behavior unless you are willing to challenge yourselves to make some sweeping changes for the health of your marriage. Face it; in order to love one another as 1 Corinthians outlines, we mere mortals need a little help.
That is where the "Galatians 5:22-23" comes in. The characteristics of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are gifts to each one of us. Gifts that are ours for the taking if we are willing to work for them. They offer a perfect roadmap of how to maintain harmony in the midst of chaos. They help us to navigate even the most difficult circumstances. They will lift us up in the best of times and sustain us in the worst. They make what is good in our lives even better, and they lessen the pain of our adversities.
Mel Lawrenz has written a wonderful book called Patterns, in which he points out ways to develop the patterns in your life that will allow the Holy Spirit to work within you, allow you to embrace these characteristics and make them a part of your daily walk with God and with one another. This is just one resource of many that can assist you in creating a life that will exemplify the "Fruit of the Spirit."
I challenge every couple interested in attaining a deeper relationship with one another to take just these two passages, Galatians 5:22-23, and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, and mediate upon them. Decide as a couple to "digest these fruits," to embrace these ideals and ask God to shine his light of wisdom and insight upon you both as you delve deeper into the meanings behind these enduring truths.
Make a pledge to one another that these are the standards by which you are measuring your relationship. Take them one by one and embrace them without reservation, until you fully understand them and can more easily put them into practice. Be patient with one another, as enlightenment, comprehension and mastery will be attained at your own individual pace (remember that patience and kindness are two of the cornerstones of this formula)!
Remind yourselves that embracing each one of these values is a daily choice. Choose to lead a peaceful life, Choose to be joyful, Choose to exercise self-control. It is within the power of each of us to practice these qualities, to make them habits, part of our personalities and to apply them in our relationships with others. But it has also been my experience that I need the Holy Spirit to keep me moving in the right direction, to pick me up when I fall, and to forgive me and give me a fresh start when I lose my way.
If both of you will subscribe to attaining these attributes, individually and as a couple, then you will have embraced an abiding formula for creating a long and happy marriage. You will have built a bridge that stretches beyond your differences. And you will have found a light to illuminate your path as you walk together into your future. All it takes is for both of you to digest the "Fruit of the Spirit."
Aren't you feeling a bit hungry?
"Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowances for each other's faults because of your love." ~ Ephesians 4:2
Deborah J. Thompson is a writer, artist and Stephen Minister. Please visit her website http://www.inspiredreflections.info/ for additional "Reflections" on Life and Marriage. She has just finished the first draft of her first book, Your Life, Your Choice, which gives 5 simple steps to harness the power of your choices and bring more Love, Joy and Peace into your life. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.